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Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.


Jeffrey Dvorkin

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ethics Guides for Management?

The conference of the Organization of News Ombudsmen has begun in Montreal.

At an opening reception last night, we heard words of welcome from two of the top managers from Radio-Canada and CBC, cosponsors of the conference.

Sylvain LaFrance from Radio-Canada is the VP of French services. He spoke about the importance of ombudsmen and the public broadcaster's commitment to the office.

Esther Enkin is the Executive Editor of CBC News. She spoke about how the CBC has, under her leadership, re-written and trained more than 1000 CBC journalists, bringing them up to date on how broadcast and online journalism must now be practiced. She has visited stations, used webinars and in consultation with the offices of the ombudsmen (English and French), done a thorough updating. The approach was - and is - impressive.

One question posed to her caught some of the dilemma of her situation. It came from Michael Getler, the ombudsman from PBS and former ombudsman and senior editor at the Washington Post.

Getler asked if management is also part of the training, or is the burden of ethical excellence entirely on the journalists?

I sensed she preferred not to answer that one. Instead she spoke about how the board of the CBC had given their approval for what she is doing, and while the occasional manager might sit in, there is no requirement for the top brass at the CBC to be part of this process.

This is a problem for Esther Enkin and the CBC.

Senior management may give their blessing to ethics training, but in a corporate culture of cuts to news budgets and more news on the cheap (aka crime reporting) in pursuit of a downmarket agenda, means that CBC may be ethically pure but still stuck doing the same mass market journalism practiced elsewhere.

And all the ethics training in Canada won't make the CBC a better public broadcaster until that changes. 

1 comment:

  1. Apparently, from what I gathered from news renewal meetings and training seminars, is that people really care about crime, safety, and the weather.

    This from Magid consultants Inc, who interviewed about a thousand people across Canada. Management thus made changes, including fewer minute plus stories, which no one has the patience to sit and listen to these days.

    Oh, and Jian Gomeshi appears and says twitter is fun and the internet is big. Look, my show is a radio show on TV, also heard in the US. We went to New York in case you missed it! By God the public broadcaster has nothing to be ashamed of.

    Ceeb radio still crushes private news. In local TV... what's the difference supposed to be again?

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